An exploratory study on the impact of new public management inspired change on work and HRM in the Irish nonprofit, voluntary and community sector

  • Patrick O'Rourke

Student thesis: Doctoral Thesis


The Irish Nonprofit Voluntary and Community Sector (NPVCS) is a growing and critical part of the socio-economy. However, there is a lack of understanding of the dynamics of change in this third sector which merits investigation. This study explores such change, particularly around work and people management at a time of unprecedented turmoil in the macro environment and in the institutional and policy landscape. One of the biggest catalysts for change has stemmed from New Public Management (NPM), which has infiltrated the sector through the sector's growing dependence on the State for funding and service contracts. Empirically, this creates the warrant for the study which explores the dynamics of this change in the neglected context of the Irish NPVCS. Theoretically, the study expands our understanding of the NPM construct under austerity. The study gives a nuanced picture of the realities and contradictions of a sector in transition from a traditionally benevolent model of a charity to that of a commercial like business, whilst still trying to retain and uphold its original values, ethos and mission. There is a paucity of research on work and HRM in the Irish NPVCS and this study addresses the knowledge gap by exploring the nature and extent of NPM inspired change via a theoretical framework which includes environment-organisation analysis, institutional, resource dependency and strategic choice theories. The employee perception and reaction to such NPM inspired change is captured via the developmentof a unique conceptual framework that incorporates the psychological contact, commitment and OCB. This model tests the employee reaction to NPM inspired change through a number of research hypotheses, while the moderating effect of the voluntary sector ethos (VSE) is examined to determine its presence and impact. This empirical study pursued a mixed method, multi-level inquiry in two case study organisations in the Irish Physical and Sensory Disability (PSD) sub-sector using qualitative interviews and an on-line survey instrument. The findings indicate that both case study organisations have experienced significant NPM inspired change. This ha shad a strategic, operational and cultural impact on both organisations, particularly in how they manage work and people, which is consistent with the extant literature. Surprisingly, the employee perception and reaction to such change has been mixed but remains relatively positive on a number of barometers, with the proffered explanation partially residing in the VSE and partially in the collective solidarity of a sector and nation in crisis survival mode. The adoption of NPM change by choice and by necessity has been a moderated process in which both organisations to varying degrees, have still managed to retain and preserve core elements of their VSE and values but not without some tensions and contradictions. The outcomes of this research have lessons for practitioners, leaders and policy makers in the sector and in HR and signals fertile areas that warrant future academic research.
Date of Award28 Aug 2018
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • University Of Strathclyde
SupervisorIan Cunningham (Supervisor) & Dora Scholarios (Supervisor)

Cite this